Virginia Wine Time

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Weekend Happenings

There are lots of wine events coming up this weekend. We suggest you check out the Virginia Wineries website for a full listing of events. Piedmont Vinyards, Philip Carter, and Barrel Oak are three that we might be attending. What are you doing this wine weekend?

At Piedmont Vineyards and Winery:

At Philip Carter Winery:

May 29: Anniversary of American Wine – the 248th Anniversary Celebration of American Wine Festival, a three day event. Join hosts, Mr. Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Charles Carter, for our third annual 1762 Gold Medal Ceremony and discover why the Carter family is recognized as the first family of American wine.

It’s a day of fun in wine country for the entire family. Be there for the release of “Cleve”, a full-bodied red Bordeaux that is both complex and sophisticated, and enjoy the modern day juxtaposed to the eighteenth century! Hear the voices of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Carter as they speak of their personal connection to wine in young America.

Link-in to the Philip Carter Virtual Tweet-up & Tasting that will explore each Philip Carter wine, including Cleve, during the event, and bring Twitter, Facebook & Foursquare fans together.

Activities include live music, delicious foods, hay rides and moon bounce, and much, much more. Author, Marc Leepson returns. and, as always, all well behaved canine friends are welcomed. Gates open at 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

At Barrel Oak:

It is Barrel Oak Winery’s 2nd anniversary and we are celebrating this Memorial Day Weekend in several amazing ways! We are:

1. Releasing our most popular wines this weekend: BOWHaus White and BOWHaus Red as well as our highly anticipated Rose.
2. Opening the new art show by Ben Roeder: “Traces of Memory, an Abstract Introspective”.
3. Featuring great live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights!
4. Giving a Golden Ticket to every purchaser of a case of our wine. These Golden Tickets contain the gift of a free tasting for two, a combo platter, a bottle of wine, or a membership in our BOWClub. These gifts range in value from $18 to $175.
5. Raffling off TWO Aged Barrels with memberships in our Barrel Club. Each membership has a value of over $1300. Everyone tasting our wines will receive a raffle ticket.

Additionally, on Saturday and Sunday we will have awesome food service from Local 647, serving the best locally sourced farm-fresh organic foods and runners up winners of ABC Weekend’s 2009 Best Food Cart in America Competition.

There will be great music Friday from 6-9 with Demetrios and Curtis and dancing to the sunsets on Saturday 6-9pm to local favorites eNVee and Sunday 6-9pm to the Fabulous Exaggerations! And Sunday we will have old-timey music during the day with Poor Ellen Smith.

We have seating for over 400 guests and of course as always, dogs, kids and picnics are welcome!

Please join us at BOW for the perfect blend of Farm, Family, and Fun!
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Have a great weekend!

Spring Wine Festival

Today we went to the Spring Wine Festival at the Plains. The weather was cool and cloudy but the sun came out a few times. We had the opportunity to sample many wines from wineries all over the state of Virginia. We also had some delicious foods, participated in a California versus Virginia Twitter taste off, and heard some great music.

We were able to tasted wines at 15 different booths. We took lots of notes but couldn’t possibly let you know about each and every winery. Here are highlights from today’s tastings. We picked out a few to share with you. We’ll list the winery and the wine we noted.

Rockbridge-Pinot Noir
Castle Gruen-The King’s Red
Unicorn-Slightly Embarrassed
Abingdon-White Pinot Noir
Cooper-Viognier
Hiddencroft-Dutchman’s Creek
Virginia Mountain-Traminette
Aspen Dale-Consistant quality-we loved all their wines
Stone Mountain-Traminette
Pearmund-both were good
Kluge-Blanc de Blanc
Del Fosse-Reserve d’Oriane
Miracle Valley-Sweet Michelle
Vincent’s Vineyard-Cab Franc
Delaplane Cellars-Honah Lee Viognier

There were several other wineries in attendance but we didn’t have time to get to them all.

The Twitter Taste Off was described like this:

“You be the judge! Come into our wine laboratory and blind-taste your favorite Virginia varietal from several wineries side by side! Brandon Walsh, of Hosted Wine Tasting, will add a non-VA wine to each flight just to make it interesting. Varietals for this exclusive tasting includes Virginia’s best Chardonnays, Viogniers, Cabernets, Merlots and Bordeaux-style Blends.”

It was exactly that. We tasted a viognier from California and Virginia. The Delaplane Cellars Honah Lee Viognier beat the California viognier. We then tasted cab franc from both and the California cab franc won. The last tasting of merlots was a toss up. Half liked the California and half liked the Miracle Valley Merlot. Warren and I were split as well. I liked the California and Warren enjoyed the Miracle Valley.

We ended the day with some biscotti and a glass of the Delaplane Cellars Honah Lee Viognier while listening to Bianca Merkley on the music stage. It began to rain so we called it a day and headed home. We were pleased with the wines we were able to taste today. We highly recommend the wine festivals at the Plains. There’s something there for everyone.

Wine Festival at the Plains

What are you doing this weekend? We’d like to suggest the Spring Wine Festival at the Plains. There will be over 250 Virginia wines presented for tasting. There will be fine art, fancy food, culinary seminars, musical entertainment, and the opening night of Twilight Polo.

We attended this event last fall and loved it. Many of the wineries we are unable to get to, taste their wines at this festival. It’s a great way to taste some wines you’d never get to taste unless you made a trip to their tasting room.

Check out the website and get your tickets now! We’ll see you there!

Linden Barrel Tasting

So we’re behind in our postings, but we promise to get caught up. (Darn those 9-5 things called jobs!)  Anyway, we did attend the Linden barrel tasting held on May 2 and wanted to post about the event.  We love all things Linden, and this barrel tasting confirmed for us that Jim Law is an incredible winemaker.  Of course, he does get phenomenal support from superb fruit cultivated from the Avenius and Boisseau vineyards, and these wines all prove this theorem to be correct—great wine starts in the vineyard.

Our cellar tasting began with the cult-favorite 2009 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc paired with mussels.  Is there another word for “divine”?  Please let us know!  Classic Sauvignon Blanc characteristics prevailed here with the signature minerality associated with the Avenius Sauvignon Blanc.  In fact, we met up with Shari who presented her 2009 Chardonnay at the Concrete Egg.  Yes, a concrete egg.  This storage device could well pass for an atom bomb, but indeed it does house evolving Chardonnay wine that would otherwise ferment in a stainless steel tank.  Shari explained to us that this is not new technology and the egg does provide a more stable environment for wine to develop.  We await the final results, of course, since this sample was quite young; however, we do anticipate a more French-style offering.

And so on to the red wine barrel samples.  Which were the faves?  We reached a split decision, but it a tough decision. Paul’s nod went to the 2009 Boisseau Cabernet Franc due to its fruit-forward presentation.  I gravitated toward the more complex 2009 Hardscrabble barrel with its blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Jim’s father poured from this barrel, and I appreciated the story behind the blend—a difficult spring that gave way to a remarkable summer that will produce a cellar-worthy Bordeaux-style wine.

From there we proceeded to the special release room where upcoming releases were being tasted.  Here again we reached different conclusions.  I held my ultimate gold star for the special release room, and it was presented to the 2007 Hardscrabble Red. The composite here was similar to the barrel sample but included Petit Verdot and splash of Carmenere.  Dark fruit, pencil shavings, and a spicy edge defined this one; given that it’s from the stellar 2007 vintage, count on a cellar-worthy offering to boot.  Paul preferred the more accessible 2007 Avenius Red which was dominated by Petit Verdot but supported by a generous splash of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Drink now or later, this pour offered blackberries, raspberries, and a bit of nutmeg to complement grilled fare that may include a dash of barbeque sauce.

With our barrel tasting done, we enjoyed a glass of the 2009 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc with a baguette.  It was a lovely spring afternoon, and Jim Law’s tasting room offers spectacular mountain views which aw appreciated as we sipped and nibbled. Remember, the cellar tasting is offered to case club members; so, visit Linden to try their current releases and you might be tempted to purchase a case in order to enjoy the benefits.  Be sure to mention, though, that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

My Blends

Warren shared his blending experience with you in the last post. I’ll share mine in this post. I will agree with Warren about Al’s malbec. It’s one of the best I’ve tasted. It reminded me of Lori Corcoran’s malbec. Maybe in the future Al will plant enough to produce a stand alone. It’s definitely a great addition to the pieces he uses for blending.

My first blend was made up of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Malbec, and 10% Petit Verdot. I really liked the stand alone versions of these grapes and thought larger amounts of merlot and cab sauv would make a nice wine. Well, in the end this first blend had too much spice for my taste. I didn’t understand that because I only had 15% of the cab franc which were I thought most of the spice would come from. Al explained to me that when you put them all together, they bring out different characteristics and my blend just happened to bring out more spice. Of course I needed to change the percentages in my second blend.

Since I really enjoyed the malbec as a stand alone, I decided to make that one of the major components of my second blend. I went with 30% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. This second blend was so much better than the first blend. The spiciness was gone and replaced with some nice fruit and decent tannins. I was ready to bottle this blend. Warren said he enjoyed it as well.

Al explained how they create 15 different blends, make a gallon of each one, and taste them at three different time intervals. The blend for this year’s Ranger Reserve is 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 12% Malbec. We got a chance to taste it and of course it was wonderful. We had a great time at the blending class and look forward to blending again in the future.

Blending Makes Perfect

Ever wonder how Virginia wine makers come up with the combinations for their Bordeaux-style blends?  These blends may be recognizable to readers as Meritage blends, but these are indeed Bordeaux-style blends.  To be considered a Meritage (or Bordeaux blend), a wine must consist of a combination of any or all of these varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  No single varietal can make up more than 50% of the blend. Readers may recall that we attempted to blend a Cabernet Franc at Sunset Hills, but this time we decided to test our blending talents at Gray Ghost Vineyards.  Our challenge here was to produce a Bordeaux-style blend that would mimic Gray Ghost Vineyards’ award-winning Ranger Reserve.  Of course, this challenge required tasting, blending, and then more tasting; needless to say, we were eager to participate!

Our session was conducted by winemaker Al Kellert who began the session with a brief history of the Bordeaux varietals.  This was very informative, and I learned that Petit Verdot was the earliest of these varietals to be planted in France. This may have occurred in a time before the contemporary era (or BC for traditionalists).  Also, Al answered the question that many participants may have wanted to ask—why blend?  Wine makers blend for a number of reasons—one good reason may be to hide flaws of certain individual wines especially during poor vintages. However, another reason to blend is to create a “whole that is better than the parts”.  This last reason suggests an artistic component to the process, and it is one that Al Kellert embraces as a winemaker.  In fact, The Gray Ghost Reserve is the end result of at least 15 different blends that are tasted at different intervals in the aging process.  The winning combination is one that has met a predetermined goal—a blend of all five varietals that harmonizes the best qualities of each so that no one varietal dominates over the others.

Our task, then, was to create a blend that met the criteria for a Bordeaux-style wine.  We were not informed of previous blends used by Al to produce the Ranger Reserve, so participants were not pre-disposed to produce a blend that mirrored Al’s previous products.  We began with bottle samples of each Bordeaux varietal, and these samples produced from estate-grown fruit—even the Malbec.  After these individual samplings, we were then charged to create our own blends.  My own favorite of the single varietal samples was the 2008 Merlot with its fruit-driven profile; I decided that this one would be my “headliner.”  However, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon provided backbone with its darker fruit characteristics, nice tannic structure and longer finish.  I ultimately decided that this one would be my co-star with the others acting as supporting cast members.  The supports added various degrees of smoke, spice, and berry fruits would complement the mix; so, armed with pipettes and a beaker I blended away!

So what did I create?  I must say that I was quite pleased with my end results.  I actually finished two blends, and both were dominated by the Merlot.  My first blend started with 30% Merlot with equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, but I opted to kick up the Merlot a notch to 40% in my second blend.  It was my second blend that I preferred. With this one, I also added in more Cabernet Sauvignon, decreased the Cabernet Franc a notch but added more Petit Verdot.  A relative splash of Malbec finished off my second blend.  As a result, I accomplished my goal, and I created a layered, fruit-driven yet complex blend that included dark fruit flavors, earthy/spicy aromas, and a generous finish.  And the color was dense to boot!

Of course, I was not alone at the blending table, and Paul was busy concocting his own vintner’s special.  I’ll let him describe his own process and results.  However, I will close by noting that I was very surprised at the quality of Al Kellert’s  Malbec.  In fact, more than one blender at our table featured the Malbec as the dominant varietal. This is a tough grape to grow in Virginia, and the Gray Ghost Vineyard has very few Malbec vines planted in it.  What little is produced each year is used in the Ranger Reserve, so an individual bottling would not be possible.  (There were requests to plant more Malbec, though!)

What were Paul’s blends?  How did we compare to the ultimate champion, Al Kellert?  I’ll let Paul provide those details.  In the meantime, plan a visit to Gray Ghost Vineyards, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Spring Wine Festival

Looking for a Spring Wine Festival? We’d like to suggest the Spring Wine Festival at the Plains. There will be over 250 Virginia wines presented for tasting. There will be fine art, fancy food, culinary seminars, musical entertainment, and the opening night of Twilight Polo.

We attended this event last fall and loved it. Many of the wineries we are unable to get to taste their wines at this festival. It’s a great way to taste some wines you’d never get to taste unless you made a trip to their tasting room.

Check out the website and get your tickets now! And if you see us there, say hi!

Reflections on The Drink Local Conference

Paul certainly captured the spirit of the Drink Local Wine Conference that was held at the Lansdowne Resort this past Sunday. I thought that I would add a few of my own thoughts on the event:

1. We’re on the verge of something really big!
Readers of our blog know that we’ve been heralding Virginia wines for five year now, and the treat for us has been to witness the tremendous growth in the local wine industry. The number of wineries and vineyards in the area has exploded in the past few years; however, the most successful wineries have kept a focus on wine quality. It was fascinating to me to listen to and even interact with successful owners and winemakers such as Mathieu Finot of King Family, Jenni McCloud of Chrysalis, Luca Paschina of Barboursville and Jordan Harris of Tarara. Their quest is to discover what varietals work for Virginia, to experiment and take risks, and to ultimately put Virginia on the map as a region that produces unique yet world-class wines. Which ones will be the flagship grapes? Opinions seem to converge on Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot with Merlot and Chardonnay in the running. The panel discussions with wine makers and social media experts confirmed what I have known for years now—Virginia is on the verge of something big!

2. Social Media connects consumers to local wines.
Ok—I must admit that I am not a Twitter or Facebook fan. Paul handles all of that for Virginia Wine Time. However, after Sunday’s panel discussion on social media, I am now a fervent believer that Twitter, Facebook, and blogs fill the gap between local wineries and traditional media. Virginia wineries may not be headlining Wine Spectator, but then again most wine drinkers don’t really care. A tweet about a favorite Virginia wine creates a buzz that Wine Spectator could never create. Jenn Breaux Blosser of Breaux Vineyards is by far the most engaged with social media, and she had never been shy about networking via Twitter and Facebook. I do believe the testimonial that she delivered at the conference—social media pulls in customers that she could never reach via traditional media.

There are exceptions, though. I was thrilled to meet Dave McIntyre, wine critic for the Washington Post. Dave’s wine column in Wapo’s food section is one that I never miss, and he has been an active promoter of local wines. I’ll take Dave’s word about wine over Robert Parker’s any day of the week. However, I’d apply the same standard to bloggers and “tweeters” and admit that an expert palate like Dave McIntyre’s certainly trumps mine; so, if Dave recommends a Virginia wine, trust him—it’s really good and worth seeking out!

3. Virginia (and Maryland) makes some excellent wines.
The highlight of the day had to be the wine “Twitter Taste-Off” when we all got to sample the best wines that 21 local wineries had to offer. Paul noted that Breaux Vineyards’s 2002 Reserve Merlot and Chrysalis’ 2008 Albarino took top honors, and those were certainly excellent pours. However, there were a number of outstanding wines that included Michael Shaps’ Viognier (my own personal fave), King Family’s 2008 Meritage (which may give the successful 2007 vintage a run for its money), and Boxwood’s 2007 Topiary. The sleepers of the event had to be the 2005 Petit Verdot from Ingleside and the current Syrah from Maryland’s Black Ankle. (For those who like a fuller-bodied Chardonnay, Maryland’s Elk Run offering may be worth a try, too.)

I was definitely inspired by the day’s events, and now I am even more anxious to hit the wine trails to discover the quality wines that Virginia wineries have to offer. And now I am determined to visit Maryland wineries, too! Of course, another pleasure was to meet other bloggers, and who knew that we would be dubbed the “wine mafia”! Could this be a movie in the making? The Winefather?

Be sure to visit Virginia wineries this spring, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Drink Local Wine Conference

Today we attended the Drink Local Wine conference at Lansdowne. We had a great time meeting fellow wine bloggers and meeting members of the Virginia wine community.

The first session we attended was a panel discussion about the grapes that work best for Virginia. The panelists were Matthew Meyert from Williamsburg Winery, Jennifer McCloud from Chrysalis Vineyard, and Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards. The moderator of this discussion was Richard Leahy of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. The discussion centered around grapes that work best in Virginia. Both hybrids and vinifera were discussed. It was interesting to hear all the different grapes that each winemaker thought worked best in Virginia.

Our second session was all about social media. The panelists were Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report, Jennifer Breaux Blosser from Breaux Vineyards, and Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon. The moderator was Michael Wangbicker. This session started with a great discussion about how social media is part of any marketing plan for a winery. We learned that many wineries have seen increases in customers and sales. The discussion got a little heated at one point when it became print media versus online media. Everyone has their opinions. I shared mine. You can probably guess which side I am on. This was my favorite session. I really enjoyed the discussions. All the panelists did a great job!

After the social media session we had lunch. Here’s a photo of the new named “Wine Mafia” having lunch. It was great discussing wines and blogging with these guys.


Pictured: Anything Wine, New York Cork Report, Drink What You Like, and The Other 46.

After lunch we had a session about drinking local and eating local. The panelists were Mary Watson-DeLauder from Lansdowne Resort, Andrew Stover, Chef Wino, and Todd Kliman from Washingtonian magazine. The moderator was Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post. This one started out slow but by the end was pretty interested. I found myself Twittering more than listening until discussion began to peak my interest.

The final event of the day was the Twitter Taste-off. There were 20-some Virginia wineries pouring a red and a white. Participants were to go around the room stopping at different tables to taste the wines each winery brought. We then tweeted about our tastings. At the end we were to vote on our favorites. If you follow us on Twitter, you know we tweeted a lot about the viogniers we tasted. We tried to start with all the whites and then move on to the reds but as we were tasting we ran into so many wine friends that we had to stop and talk. By the time we go to the reds we were running out of time. We had to get our ballets in. After a few more tastings we turned in our ballets. We then waited for the results. The winner of the reds was Breaux Vineyards 2002 Merlot Reserve. The winner for the whites was the Chrysalis Vineyards 2008 Albarino. We enjoyed both of these selections and were pleased to see they won.

While others headed off to dinner after the taste off, we were headed home. We had a great day and thank everyone at Drink Local Wine for the wonderful hospitality. It was also great to meet all the bloggers we chat with on Twitter. We met so many people today! What a great way to promote Virginia wine.


Pictured: Sip, Swirl, Snark, Drink What You Like, and Anything Wine

Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival

Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival-For the second year in a row the Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival will take place this weekend, April 24 and 25 at St. John the Evangelist school in Warrenton Virginia. At the festival you’ll be able to taste wines from about 20 Virginia wineries, hear music from local musicians, see and purchase art from several local artists, and browse the merchandise from several local and regional vendors.

Be sure to check out the website and get your tickets now. We attended the festival last year and really had a great time. We tasted some wines we couldn’t taste unless we visited the wineries.

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